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Travel safe with your plastic

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Friday, July 1, 2011
Posted: 11 am ET

Before driving off to the beach or mountains to celebrate the red, white and blue, pack these five tips to keep your debit and credit cards fraud-free.

  • ATM antics. Some crooks set up pinhole cameras behind ATMs to capture your personal identification number, says William Noonan, assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service's criminal investigative division. They match the number with account information picked up from a skimmer they have placed on the ATM. Try to cover your hand as you punch in your PIN number. Use bank ATMs over others because they provide a higher level of security, including cameras and locked vestibules. Also, some thieves like to steer you to a tampered ATM by placing out-of-service signs on nearby machines, says Noonan.
  • Debit don't. Ask retailers to swipe your debit card as a credit card, so you don't have to key in your PIN. That will help to protect your account information in case the card terminal has been compromised.
  • Internet invasion. Avoid using Internet cafes or other public computers to check your financial accounts and even your email, says FICO's Fraud Chief Mike Urban. Your email account could provide sensitive information to snooping eyes.
  • Watchful eye. Keep track of what you have put on your credit and debit cards and match it up to your billing statement. Call your bank or log online (from a safe computer) to check transactions during your vacation. Also, let your financial institutions know if you're traveling and where you're going, so they don't accidentally deny one of your purchases.
  • Speed dial. Keep a list of your banks' and credit card companies' telephone numbers somewhere other than your purse or wallet. If you get pickpocketed, you can quickly contact your financial institutions and help avoid unwanted transactions.
  • "Card fraud doesn't take a holiday," says Urban.  "And from a vacation perspective, generally your guard is down."

    Share with us: What measures do you take to protect yourself on vacation?

    Happy Fourth of July!

    Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron

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